Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's like you're a hobo or something

This was a remark made to my husband by one of his coworkers yesterday. Apparently, Jordan was digging through the recycling bin at the office looking for Coke caps. He likes to enter the codes online to get free stuff. When he told me that I laughed and suggested we visit the local recycling center to see what we could get there. It was rather disappointing--we only found seven or eight caps, because people are required to remove them before the bottles can be recycled.

As we drove around talking and looking for recycling bins, we reminisced about some of the finds we've made in the past. During a particularly hot summer in a particularly stuffy apartment, one of our fellow tenants who was moving out left a like-new rotating fan out by the dumpster. We picked it up and it's made the rounds--our apartment, my mother's house, Jordan's work. Generally, the best time to dumpster-shop (in most any college town, I'd imagine) is right after move-out at the start of summer, and again during move-in in the fall. People leave furniture and all kinds of things they decided at the last minute not to take home or use. We've never actually been in a dumpster--but not everyone shrinks from it.

The things that show up in our lives for free (or nearly free) amaze me. We've seen over and over that if we spend our money wisely (and, usually, even if we don't) God will get us what we need one way or another.

As people in this country are realizing that, heaven forbid, they are about to be forced to wear last year's clothes, and are calling this a negative change in our standard of living, I am wondering if it's not a good thing. There are people out there buying their teenagers Hummers to drive. Women are having biweekly mani-pedis. Everything is disposable. We've had it coming.

The only way a lot of people will save money is if they no longer have it to spend. For some, this means the credit cards are maxed out. For us, it was realizing we may need to use a credit card one day soon if we didn't watch it. We reevaluated our priorities and I am proud of our progress.

As Christians, we try to stay out of debt as much as possible. It is clear to me that excessive spending, especially when it leads to debt, is not what God wants for us. Debt makes us slaves to someone or something other than God. It dictates where our money goes, and that means we are less and less able to use it to help others. This is the reason behind the way of life of the Burts, whose blog I linked near the top of this post. They make plenty of money to live a wasteful lifestyle, but have made the decision not to.

I have no doubt that our current financial situation will change for the better eventually, but for us personally, it isn't bad now. This is just an opportunity to get creative! We've made a game of it, seeing what expenditures we can avoid and how much we can save on groceries each week. My favorite book at the moment is The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. (Find a cheap used copy on Amazon or The woman is a genius. If you are concerned about our country's financial climate, I highly suggest you order this book. It will save you money, but think of the larger goal: A simpler life. Less waste. A healthier environment. It's all connected.


Rissa said...

I have all three of Amy's books! Those things are awesome. The only problem I run into, though, is the fact that she's so mathematical. I'm awful with numbers, and when she starts explaining the breakdown of costs for certain things, I must admit that I get a bit lost. But honestly, the books are wonderful. There are so many great ideas.
In the beginning of your post, before I saw the part about the Tightwad Gazette, I was thinking, "Hmmm, I need to tell her about the Tightwad Gazette, this is just like one of the sections I just read!" :)

Ginny Marie said...

My dad is a pastor, and my mom stayed at home with us 4 kids. As you can imagine, they worried about money! My dad always said that God would provide, and He did.